Saturday, September 24, 2011

Crossing Genres: what's with the pseudonyms?

At a romance writers’ conference I attended earlier this year, I noticed authors wearing multiple name tags. Some had as many as five different pseudonyms. I wondered why so many pen names. In broaching the subject with one such author she said to me, “I’m known for paranormal romance and that’s what my readers expect, so when I write contemporary or romantic suspense I use a different name.” Now as I delve into writing a new series of children’s science education adventure, I realize Jewel Amethyst, the romance author is not very credible as an author of children’s stories… or is she?

I began to examine authors who have successfully crossed genres. I’m not talking only about subcategories of the same general genre, but totally different genres. Quite a few of them use different pseudonyms. As the author I spoke to at the conference explained, if an author is known for a specific genre, there is a certain reader expectation. John Grisham, for example, is known for legal drama. He tried crossing genres several times in books like “A Painted House,” and “Skipping Christmas” among others. I can’t tell if the books sold well, because his name would sell books, but I found some of his “other” genres quite disappointing. Not that the books weren’t written well, but because I expected something of him that I didn’t get.

Nora Roberts has successfully written several different subgenres of romance using various pen names, even keeping the identities separate for a while. But not all authors who successfully cross genres use different pseudonyms. James Patterson, known most for the Alex Cross series of suspense, has successfully published other genres without using a different pseudonym. Among his bestsellers was the Maximum Ride series of science fiction. He has also dappled in romance with “Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas” one of the sweet romances that I found to be a really refreshing change of pace, and “Sam’s Letters to Jennifer.” He has even written children’s and young adult novels, “Santa Kid” and “Middle School, the worst years of my life” all using the same name.

So as I embark on this new venture of publishing in the “children’s science education adventure” genre, I wrestle with the decision of authorship. Would Jewel Amethyst, the romance author with the exotic name be seen as a credible author of children’s science education fiction, or would J. A. Daniel, PhD be more credible?

What do you think?


KeVin K. said...

I'd go with "Jewel Daniel" but only because a name might be more accessible to children than bare initials. "PhD" optional.

I have one pen name I use for stories my wife hates -- ones I call noir and she calls depressing. (Exception is "Nightmare with Fugue." She hates it but thinks it's so good she didn't want anyone else getting credit.)
For everything else, which at this point is science fiction, mystery, and fantasy, I use my own name.
Except romance. Despite recent advances, folks overwhelmingly prefer their romance writers to be female. (I am writing a romance which I was market under my wife's name. She overruled me, creating a name that combined her mother's name with my father's.)

Charles Gramlich said...

I tend to think of my "genre" as adventure so whatever I write that is high in adventure I use my regular name. If I were to write romance I'd probably use a pseudonym. I might do the same thing with a YA story, although depends on how much adventure there was I guess.

Liane Spicer said...

I'd use a different pen name for the children's books. One UK writer who belonged to an online group with which I was associated writes both sizzling romance and children's adventure. She uses her real name for the juvenile fiction and a pen name for the romance, and says it is critical when writing for children to keep the two IDs separate.

I'd say go with Jewel Daniel, or Dr. Jewel Daniel. I think children (and their parents) might relate more to 'Dr.' than to 'PHD'.

G said...

I've never given much thought about using a pen name. I've used my real full name (intials are GBMJr) for my published shorts and I've done my initial querying using my full name.

However, I just started querying my stuff from a different direction and those people are asking for a pen name. I still like using my full name for publishing, so I'll probably do some kind of modified version of my full name.

As for you question, I agree with the others in that you should meld both your real name and pen name together to make a brand new one.

Jewel Amethyst said...

Kevin, I've seen children's books with authors' initials quite often. I don't think the children care about the authors' names, but the adults buying the books. Hence publishers are can be quite anal about names.

In terms of males writing romance, Devon Vaugn Archer a.k.a. Barry Flowers might be better able to respond to that, but I think there was a time when Kimani wanted male romance authors, and wanted them to use male sounding names.

Jewel Amethyst said...

Thanks Charles, Liane and G for your suggestions. I will definitely not use Jewel Amethyst. I recall when I first decided to use that name (which is my real name by the way, minus the surname) my editor suggested I use a different name because it sounded fake, like an exotic dancer. That is the reason why I am less likely to use Jewel Amethyst.

I still however wrestle with the idea of using the J. A. Daniel or the Jewel Daniel, because I still want to keep my professional (non-fiction writing) identity separate from my fiction writing identity. Not very practical in this internet age I know, but still...

Lynn Emery said...

I think J.A. Daniel or Jewel Daniel would be great names for your YA titles.

This post is interesting! I wrestled with the pen name question, too. Some advised that I use a different name for the mysteries I've written as indie titles. I decided against it. I've put too much effort into Lynn Emery to start from scratch. Also these books, like the romantic suspense I've written, feature smart women willing to fight for what they believe in, love or justice. So I don't think of them as that far off from my romance titles.

Lynn Emery is also my real time, just not all of it :o)

Angie said...

To me it's a marketing issue. I've published m/m romance under Angela Benedetti, but I'm submitting genre SF and fantasy under another name, and if I ever wrote YA or kids' books I'd use a third. Except for the YA/kids' stuff, I wouldn't make a major state secret out of the connection between the names, but rather I'd do it to keep things separate.

Reader expectations are particularly strong in genre, and I've seen readers eviscerate an author for even switching to a different subgenre of the same genre. :/ Switching between genres, you can lose your current readers, and have a hard time finding readers in the new genre who think of you as that Other kind of writer. Easier just to give everyone their own name to watch for, and link what you can on your web site so readers who want to read all your stuff can do so.

[Hopefully I don't have to explain why someone who writes books with explicit sex scenes would want to use a different name for YA/kids' books AND keep it a fairly close secret. [wry smile]]


Jewel Amethyst said...

Lol Angie. You do have a great point. Sometimes it's easier to separate the identities for the different genres.

Lynn, I do love your name. James Patterson manages write different genres quite successfully using the same name and I enjoyed all his genres. At the same time I found John Grisham's attempt at other genres disappointing. Maybe it's because Patterson had multiple genres out before I began reading his novels, while I began reading Grisham's novels from his first title. I don't know. But for some it's effective using the same name and for others it's not.

Carol Mitchell said...

I think that if a writer has a strong brand, crossing genres with the same name may be difficult but certainly possible if you package it right and prepare the reader to expect something different.

On the other hand -

As a parent, despite the packaging, I might think twice before buying my kids a book authored by the same person who wrote the steamy romance I enjoyed last month.

I personally think the Dr. or Phd might intimidate some children and give them the preconception that the writing will be didactic.

Carol Mitchell said...

P.S. I think the kids will love the name Jewel as much as the romance readers.

Liane Spicer said...

I have to disagree with Carol here. What about Dr. Seuss? 'Doctor' might carry reassuring, 'safe' connotations for both parents and children.

As for 'Jewel'... You - and the publishers, unless you plan to self-publish - would want to keep the adult books quite separate from the children's and using 'Jewel' would guarantee that a connection is made.

Angie said...

As a parent, despite the packaging, I might think twice before buying my kids a book authored by the same person who wrote the steamy romance I enjoyed last month.

Prejudices like this are exactly why people who do write both explicit romances and kids' books use separate pseuds and keep the connection between them a tight secret. [wry smile]


Jewel Amethyst said...

I too as a parent would be a little skeptical about a writer known for erotic romance (not that I write erotica) wrting a children's book. But like Angie said, it is a prejudice, that unfortunately many authors have to deal with.

The idea of including Dr, or PhD, is only because the books are intended to be educational and as thus I was thinking about the credibility issue viz, "What authority does this author have to write a science education book?".

I think I have now made up my mind which names I would use (sort of). You all have certainly given me quite a bit of feedback that I definitely appreciate.

Carol Mitchell said...

Good catch on Dr. Seuss, Lianne. :-)